Work productivity applications are great. But addressing unconscious unproductive tendencies works smarter. So challenge your routines and practices.

“Hard work never hurt anyone,” said Mark Twain. “As long as it is observed from a distance.”

Does that sound like you? Do you take pride in slacking off? Are you a professional couch potato? Or do you use your time wisely? You don’t really have to work harder if you work smarter.

People who work for themselves have the most challenging bosses. But most of us will not be self-employed.

In the coming years, the vast majority of workers will have to work under the supervision of someone. A manager. Or supervisor. Team leader. Maybe an algorithm! Or robot! These things are in our future, so we’d better suck it up and learn to work better and not whine longer.

But don’t despair. Even a sluggard can turn things around with the right strategy.

8 Ways We Spend Time at Work Without Working

Even if we assume we’re working hard, these repetitive behaviors might substantially limit our potential to create value daily.

If you want to work more efficiently and effectively, start by identifying the primary ways you may be squandering time at work.

1. Using email to plan our workdays

As you’re working on a critical project, an email notice lights up, and you drop everything to respond.
Most of us are guilty of this, but email is merely a means of communication and shouldn’t take over our day.
Slave to our inbox, we prioritize new, inconsequential activities above essential tasks that move us forward.
We keep adding chores to our lists, and checking email breaks our attention.
Set aside specified times to check and respond to emails.

2. Using synchronous asynchronous

Innovative thinkers created email, Slack, and WhatsApp to help us interact at our own pace on our terms.
But we’re increasingly using them for synchronous communication (as in a real-time conversation).
Checking our inboxes throughout the day, getting dragged into a collaborative tool every time a colleague edits – this is not how we should be utilizing these tools!
Use them how you see fit.

3. Preloading minor work tasks

With an arm-length to-do list, it’s natural to get started on little communication jobs first.
But rushing through a to-do list might prevent you from focusing on what matters most.
Tasks completed can give you a sense of progress, but they aren’t beneficial unless they provide value to your more significant effort.
Prioritize your tasks and finish them first.

4. Passive meeting attendees

Many meetings are mostly ineffective.
Executives spend an average of 23 hours a week in meetings, eight of which are useless.
Around 90% of individuals daydream in meetings, whereas 73% work.
We squander $37 billion annually in the US alone!
Consider how many meetings you’ve sat through passively, not participating in the discussion or argument.
Should you be there if you don’t contribute?
Consider which meetings you must attend and advocate for opt-in.
Remember that meetings are costly. Avoid them whenever possible.

5. Keeping time between work meetings

Meetings also reduce the time available for genuine, productive work outside of them.
A morning full of crowded meetings is a productivity killer.
Meetings last 30 minutes, so by the time you’ve found your rhythm and gotten sunk in, it’s time for the next.
If you want a more concentrated work week, consider scheduling meetings back-to-back – or use a smart tool like Dewo.

6. Double effort

Most of us repeat techniques or methods even while starting a new work.
Creating a new structure for comparable duties or actions is a big waste of time.
Save time and effort by using templates and shortcuts.

7. Manual labor over automation

We live in an age of automation, so why do so many of us still waste time doing mundane activities manually?
Automation may save you from tedious tasks like entering costs, monitoring time, taking notes in meetings, managing your email, or manually transferring data across work tools or spreadsheets.
The list of activities that can be automated is expanding, so do some research to see what you can outsource.
It’s one of the simplest methods to free up time and mental energy for the task that demands your expertise.

8. Faith in the hustle at work

Busyness is often associated with productivity, hurrying about, and getting things done, but it can also be a significant time waster.
We lose attention when overworked, and we refuse to take breaks.
We attempt to convince ourselves we’re doing well when in fact, we’re not.
Availability instantly is a show of involvement, and meeting attendance is a symbol of status, but we aren’t usually the ones that handle it.
Actual productivity requires time to let our brains wander, rest, and take pauses from the superficial activity that keeps us busy without adding much value.

Image Credit: Rodnae Productions; Pexels; Thank you!